Journalists Missing 1982-2009
|Publisher||Committee to Protect Journalists|
|Publication Date||December 2009|
|Cite as||Committee to Protect Journalists, Journalists Missing 1982-2009, December 2009, available at: https://www.refworld.org/docid/4b29fd4d2.html [accessed 2 December 2018]|
|Disclaimer||This is not a FOM or UNHCR publication. FOM or UNHCR is not responsible for, nor does it necessarily endorse, its content. Any views expressed are solely those of the author or publisher and do not necessarily reflect those of FOM or UNHCR, the United Nations or its Member States.|
CPJ research indicates that the following journalists have disappeared while doing their work. Although some of them are feared dead, no bodies have been found, and they are therefore not classified as “Killed.” If a journalist disappeared after being held in government custody, CPJ classifies him or her as “Imprisoned” as a way to hold the government accountable for the journalist’s fate.
María Esther Aguilar Cansimbe, El Diario de Zamora and El Cambio de Michoacán. November 11, 2009, Zamora
María Esther Aguilar Cansimbe, a reporter for the Zamora-based daily El Diario de Zamora and local correspondent for the regional daily El Cambio de Michoacán, was last seen leaving her home in Zamora, 89 miles (144 kilometers) west of the state capital Morelia, on November 11, 2009, after she received a call on her cell phone, according to news reports and CPJ interviews. No one has heard from her since, colleagues told CPJ.
Aguilar, a reporter with 10 years of experience who has worked with several regional outlets, had broken a series of stories on local corruption and organized crime for El Cambio de Michoacán in the weeks prior to her disappearance, according to the paper. On October 22, she reported on a military operation near Zamora in which at least three individuals, including the son of a local politician, were arrested on suspicion of participating with organized crime groups. On October 27, she published a story on local police abuse, after which a high-ranking official was forced to resign. Three days later, she reported on the arrest of an alleged boss of the Michoacán-based dug cartel La Familia Michoacana. According to a colleague at the daily, Aguilar did not use her byline on any of the stories for fear of reprisal.
Aguilar had not received any threats, colleagues told CPJ. However, some said they believed her disappearance could be linked to her work, El Cambio de Michoacán reported.
Michoacán State Prosecutor Jesús Montejano Ramírez said state authorities were investigating Aguilar’s disappearance, the national daily Milenio reported. Montejano said he could not make any leads public in order to not interfere with the investigation.
Muhammad al-Maqaleh Aleshteraki, September 17, 2009, Sana’a
Muhammad al-Maqaleh, editor of Aleshteraki, a Web site affiliated with the opposition Socialist Party was detained by unidentified men on the evening of September 17 in Sana’a. According to local news reports, witnesses saw gun-wielding masked men intercept al-Maqaleh’s car in Sana’a, drag him into their vehicle, and speed away.
The week before his abduction, al-Maqaleh posted an article on the Aleshteraki Web site condemning military airstrikes that killed 87 people and injured more than 100. The victims were internal refugees, having escaped ongoing fighting in Saada City.
Local human rights groups have accused Yemeni authorities of responsibility for al-Maqaleh’s disappearance. Multiple local news sites also report possible government involvement, citing a history of similar incidents. In November, The Yemeni Center for Human Rights issued a statement saying that they have received information from reliable sources that al-Maqaleh was being held in a prison in the governorate of Aden.
In 2007, al-Maqaleh was imprisoned for several months for “disrespecting the judiciary” after he laughed during the trial of journalist, Abdulkarim al-Khaiwani, who was charged with subversion for writing about an earlier round of the Saada war.
Mauricio Estrada Zamora, La Opinión de Apatzingán, February 12, 2008, Apatzingán
Estrada Zamora, 38, a crime reporter for the daily La Opinión de Apatzingán in the central Mexican state of Michoacán, was last seen on the night of February 12, when he left the newspaper’s offices in Apatzingán. No one has heard from him since.
Estrada left the offices alone at approximately 11 p.m. and had told colleagues he was heading home, they told CPJ. The next morning, local authorities found his car in Buena Vista Tomatlán, a municipality near Apatzingán. The policeman who found the car alerted the paper’s staff after finding Estrada’s press pass in the car windshield. The car was parked, but its engine was running. The doors were open and several items were missing, including a stereo and Estrada’s camera and laptop, La Opinión de Apatzingán staff told CPJ. Estrada’s immediate family reported him missing to state authorities that day. La Opinión de Apatzingán staff and Estrada’s family said they believe the reporter’s disappearance could be linked to a dispute he had in January with a Federal Investigations Agency agent who was posted in Apatzingán. On February 14, La Opinión de Apatzingán wrote that Estrada had referred to the agent in print only by his nickname, “El Diablo” (the Devil.) CPJ was unable to determine the nature of the dispute.
María de la Luz Uyuela Granado, the daily’s editor-in-chief, told CPJ that the circumstances surrounding Estrada’s disappearance remain unclear. Uyuela said Estrada didn’t investigate sensitive stories. In fact, the paper does not investigate organized crime or other risky topics that they consider too dangerous. According to Uyuela. La Opinión de Apatzingán only publishes official information when it comes to crime.
Estrada also contributed reports to La Opinion de Michoacán, a sister newspaper of La Opinión de Apatzingán.
Oralgaisha Omarshanova (Zhabagtaikyzy), Zakon i Pravosudiye, March 30, 2007, Almaty
Omarshanova, the 39-year-old investigative reporter for the Astana-based independent weekly Zakon i Pravosudiye (Law and Justice) was last seen in Kazakhstan’s financial capital, Almaty, where she was on a business trip with several colleagues. Her colleagues said they last saw her on the afternoon of March 30 getting into a jeep, the Moscow-based news agency Regnum reported. Omarshanova directed the paper’s anti-corruption department.
Four days before her disappearance, Omarshanova had published an article in Zakon i Pravosudiye about ethnic clashes between rival Chechen and Kazakh residents in the Almaty region villages of Kazatkom and Malovodnoye. The clashes, which took place on March 17 and 18, claimed at least five lives, according to local and international news reports. In her article, Omarshanova identified the instigators of the unrest and mentioned their alleged connection to the government and local businesses, the Almaty-based press freedom group Adil Soz reported.
In February, the paper published an investigative report by Omarshanova that exposed the dangerous working conditions of miners in the central city of Zhezkazgan, according to international news reports.
At a press conference in Almaty on April 11, the journalist’s brother, Zhanat Omarshanov, told reporters that in the weeks prior to her disappearance, Omarshanova had received several death threats by telephone warning her to stop her reporting, Regnum reported.
During the press conference, Zakon i Pravosudiye reporterMukhit Iskakov said Omarshanova told him she had purchased a rifle to defend herself after receiving the threats, the U.S.-funded Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty reported.
On September 10, at a press conference organized by Adil Soz and the Union of Journalists of Kazakhstan, Interior Ministry Lieutenant Colonel Baltabek Kuanyshev, who is in charge of the investigation, told journalists that Omarshanova’s disappearance seems not to be connected to her professional activities. Kuanyshev said Omarshanova may be alive but forcibly kept in captivity by criminals. He did not explain the substance behind these conclusions, though.
Oralgaisha Omarshanova is also known by her pen name, Oralgaisha Zhabagtaikyzy.
Gamaliel López Candanosa, TV Azteca Noreste, May 10, 2007, Monterrey
Gerardo Paredes Pérez, TV Azteca Noreste, May 10, 2007, Monterrey
TV Azteca Noreste reporter Gamaliel López Candanosa and camera operator Gerardo Paredes Pérez went missing on May 10 in the northern city of Monterrey, 440 miles (700 kilometers) from Mexico City, after reporting live on the birth of conjoined twins in a local hospital.
The two men checked in with the television station, a regional affiliate of the national network TV Azteca, at 4 p.m. but no one has heard from them since, according to Mexican press reports. Their Chevrolet compact car, which featured the TV Azteca logo, has also disappeared, according to press reports and CPJ interviews. The crew had not reported any threats, according to the state prosecutor’s office in Nuevo León.
TV Azteca notified local authorities on the evening of their disappearance. Daniel de León, the state prosecutor’s spokesman, said authorities believe there are links between the crew’s disappearance and organized crime, according to the Spanish news agency EFE. However, Mexican authorities officially stopped their search in July, Alfonso Teja, Azteca Noreste’s director, told reporters.
Teja said no kidnappers had contacted authorities, the station, or the families, according to the Mexican press.
Rodolfo Rincón Taracena, Tabasco Hoy, January 20, 2007, Villahermosa
Rincón, an investigative crime reporter for the Villahermosa-based daily Tabasco Hoy, has been missing since January. He was last seen leaving the paper’s newsroom in the southern state of Tabasco on January 20 at 7 p.m.
On the day he disappeared, Rincón left his personal belongings and camera at his desk and told his editor he would return shortly, according to a colleague who asked not to be identified. No one has heard from him since.
That day, Rincón had published an investigative article on local drug trafficking. A day later, Tabasco Hoy ran an article with Rincón’s byline on a local band of ATM muggers. A source at Tabasco Hoy told CPJ that Rincón had received anonymous telephone threats in 2006, but he had not seemed worried by them.
Spokespersons for the special prosecutor for crimes against journalists in Mexico City confirmed to CPJ in July that Tabasco state authorities were continuing to investigate Rincón’s case. However, sources at Tabasco Hoy and José Antonio Calcáneo, the Villahermosa-based president of the Federation of Mexican Journalists’ Associations, told CPJ that the state investigation has no solid leads.
Prakash Singh Thakuri, National Journalists Federation, July 5, 2007, Kanchanpur
Prakash Singh Thakuri was abducted on July 5 in the western district of Kanchanpur by a group of armed men believed to be associated with Nepal’s Maoist party. On July 8, a previously unknown group calling itself the National Republican Army Nepal (NRAN) claimed in an e-mail that it had killed Thakuri for circulating “propaganda in support of the monarchy,” according to local press reports. However, local journalists told CPJ that Thakuri’s body had not been found and that a police investigation remained inconclusive.
Local journalists described Thakuri as a staunch supporter of King Gyanendra, who was forced to cede control of the government in April 2006 after weeks of pro-democracy demonstrations. He had a long career as a journalist, most recently working as editor and publisher of the royalist newspaper Aajako Samachar, which closed after the king relinquished power. He was a prominent member of the royalist National Journalists Federation, local newspapers reported.
Thakuri’s wife, Janaki, told police that a group of men abducted the reporter from the couple’s home in Mahendranagar, the capital of Kanchanpur district, at around 10 a.m. on July 5, according to local news reports. She named one suspect in the kidnapping and identified the others involved as members of the Young Communist League, a group associated with the Maoist party that has been accused of human rights abuses. (Nepal’s Maoist party signed a peace agreement in November 2006, formally ending a decade-long armed insurgency.)
Maoist party leaders denied responsibility for the abduction, according to the Federation of Nepali Journalists (FNJ), the country’s largest media organization.
Police and local journalists were unable to verify the origins of the e-mail purportedly sent by the National Republican Army Nepal. In the e-mail, which was sent to Nepalese news media and officials, the group claimed it had killed Thakuri as he attempted to flee. The note did not give a time or place for the killing, according to the Himalayan News Service. In the e-mail, the group threatened to take similar actions against others it perceives to be supporters of the monarchy.
Colleagues feared that Thakuri may have been killed, but the Federation of Nepali Journalists said that they would consider him to be “missing” until his death was confirmed by police. The federation continued to press for a more through police investigation into Thakuri’s abduction.
Rafael Ortiz Martínez, Zócalo and XHCCG, July 8, 2006, Monclava
Ortiz, a reporter for the Monclova-based daily Zócalo and host of the morning news program “Radio Zócalo” on XHCCG, was last seen leaving the newspaper’s offices in a red car at 1:30 a.m. on July 8. Sergio Cisneros, Zócalo‘s editor, said Ortiz had been editing material for a radio show the next morning.
A Zócalo company car arrived at 6 a.m. on July 9 to pick up Ortiz, but the journalist was not home. His father, Rafael Ortiz del Toro, reported the disappearance to the Coahuila state prosecutor on the morning of July 10.
No one heard from Ortiz since, and there were no signs of the car in which he was last seen, Cohauila Police Lt. Aurelio Masías told CPJ. Masías said the investigation had no concrete leads but police were focusing on Ortiz’s work.
Ortiz had reported on the prevalence of prostitution in Monclova, the resulting spread of HIV/AIDS, and its effect on families.
José Antonio García Apac, Ecos de la Cuenca en Tepalcatepec, November 20, 2006, Morelia
García Apac, editor of the weekly paper Ecos de la Cuenca en Tepalcatepec, has been missing since November 20, 2006. That evening, he pulled over to call his family on his way home on a highway in the central state of Michoacán. The 55-year-old father of six has not been seen since.
As García was driving home to Morelia, the state capital, he stopped to call his family. While on the phone with his son, García was overheard responding to several men who asked his identity, family members told CPJ. The assailants then ordered the journalist to hang up the phone. Sounds of García being dragged away were heard before the line went dead.
García, nicknamed “El Chino,” reported regularly on organized crime in Michoacán. His wife Rosa Isela Caballero told CPJ that in February 2006, García compiled a list of Michoacán state officials, including police officers, who he believed were linked to criminal groups. He took the list to his sources in Mexico City’s federal anti-organized crime squad for corroboration. According to Caballero, colleagues believe this may have played a role in García’s disappearance.
Caballero has demanded a thorough investigation of her husband’s disappearance, but the authorities say they have no leads to follow, she told CPJ.
Despite García’s absence, Ecos de la Cuenca en Tepalcatepec still circulates on a bimonthly basis. Caballero now oversees the newspaper. A passport-size photo of García, with a caption demanding that his case be solved is featured on the upper right-hand side of each issue.
Elyuddin Telaumbanua, Berita Sore, August 17, 2005, Nias
Telaumbanua, a journalist with the daily Berita Sore, was reported missing on the island of Nias off the northwestern coast of Sumatra on August 22.
Telaumbanua left his home in the northern town of Gunungsitoli on August 17 for a reporting trip, promising to return home after several days, according to his wife. An editor for Berita Sore told local reporters that Telaumbanua may have disappeared while reporting on a murder in the island’s southern Teluk Daram district. Telaumbanua, 51, had also recently reported on criminal gangs, local corruption, and irregularities in recent local elections, sources told CPJ.
Ukuran Maruhawa, a journalist traveling home with Telaumbanua, said that the two were ambushed on August 22 by a group of six men riding three motorcycles who forcibly took Telaumbanua away, The Jakarta Post reported. Local journalists told CPJ that they fear Telaumbanua is dead. Citing unnamed witnesses, Berita Sore reported that the journalist was beaten and killed by gangsters on August 24.
Journalists and family members have protested to police and lawmakers, urging them to find those responsible for his disappearance. Hundreds of journalists gathered in Medan in northern Sumatra on September 15 to protest the ongoing delays in the investigation.
Alfredo Jiménez Mota, El Imparcial, April 2, 2005, Hermosillo
Jiménez, a crime reporter for the Hermosillo-based daily, disappeared from his home in the city of Hermosillo in the northwestern state of Sonora at about 9 p.m. on April 2. That night, he called a colleague at El Imparcial to say that he was going to meet with one of his contacts, according to Juan F. Healy, president and general director of the daily. Jiménez told his colleague that the contact was “very nervous.” No one has heard from Jiménez since that call.
Jiménez, 25, lives alone in Hermosillo and has been working with El Imparcial for the last six months. Police said that no belongings were taken and nothing was disturbed.
Recent articles of Jiménez have investigated drug-trafficking families in the region. Sonora prosecutors have linked his disappearance with his journalistic work.
According to CPJ’s recent research, Mexico’s northern states have become one of the most hazardous places in Latin America for journalists to practice their profession. Journalists like Jiménez, who cover crime and drug trafficking, are particularly vulnerable.
Isam al-Shumari, Sudost Media, August 15, 2004, Fallujah
Al-Shumari, a cameraman for Sudost Media, a small production company that provides footage to Germany’s N24 television, is believed to have disappeared in Fallujah on August 15. His disappearance came the same day his friend, cameraman Mahmoud Abbas, who was working with the German television station ZDF, was killed while on assignment. Al-Shumari’s relatives told an N24 journalist in Baghdad that he had traveled to Fallujah with Abbas on August 15. Although al-Shumari was not on assignment for Sudost Media or N24, he may have been assisting his friend, Abbas, with his work. CPJ is currently seeking more information about his disappearance.
IVORY COAST: 1
Guy-André Kieffer, freelance, April 16, 2004, Abidjan
Kieffer, one of the few foreign investigative reporters still based in Ivory Coast, was last seen on April 16, according to local and international press reports. In the weeks prior to his disappearance, Kieffer received death threats, according to his family and friends, who fear that he has been killed. The journalist has both French and Canadian citizenship.
Since then his cell phone has been switched off, and his family has not heard from him. Unconfirmed reports in the opposition press have suggested that members of the security forces abducted and killed Kieffer. Reports that the tortured corpse of a white man was seen in Azaguié, near Abidjan, also remain unconfirmed.
The missing journalist is also a commodities consultant who specializes in the Ivory Coast’s lucrative cocoa and coffee sectors for a company that had contracts with the government. He had conducted numerous investigations in these sectors, including exposing corruption. His freelance work included contributions to the Paris-based African business newsletter Lettre du Continent.
On May 25, Michel Legré, a brother-in-law of Ivory Coast’s first lady, was detained in the commercial capital, Abidjan, and formally charged as an accessory in the kidnapping, confinement, and murder of Kieffer, according to international news reports. According to local press reports, Kieffer, was on his way to meet Legré when he disappeared.
A French judicial inquiry has been under way since May 3, after Kieffer’s wife filed a complaint in a Paris court. France and Ivory Coast have a bilateral treaty on judicial cooperation dating back to Ivorian independence in 1960.
In the days before he was detained, Legré testified for 10 hours before a French investigating judge and blamed people close to the Ivorian government for Kieffer’s disappearance, according to local and international press reports. On May 21, the French judge, Patrick Ramael, complained to the Ivorian state prosecutor that he has been unable to question the government officials that Legré implicated and asked the prosecutor to intervene.
While the government has charged Legré with being an accessory to murder, Kieffer’s body has not been recovered, and the government has yet to present evidence that he was killed.
DEMOCRATIC REPUBLIC OF CONGO: 1
Acquitté Kisembo, Agence France-Presse, June 26, 2003, Bunia
Kisembo, a 28 year-old medical student who was recruited by Agence France-Presse (AFP) to work as a fixer in the northeastern Ituri region, a notoriously dangerous and unstable area, was reported missing in Bunia, Ituri’s main town. The last person to report seeing Kisembo alive was Anthony Morland, an AFP journalist who was working with him.
Local journalists believe that Kisembo was abducted by militiamen loyal to the rebel Union of Congolese Patriots (UPC), which controlled Bunia until it was dislodged by a French-led international peacekeeping force earlier in June. Reports suggest that there was UPC resentment at locals perceived to be collaborating with the foreign presence in Bunia. However, the reasons behind Kisembo’s disappearance remain unclear.
According to Morland, Kisembo was first hired as a general fixer, but later was given some reporting duties. On the day he disappeared, Kisembo had been assigned to interview displaced people returning to Bunia. At the time Kisembo was reported missing, Ituri was emerging from several years of bloodletting, violence, and ethnic conflict, spurred by the region’s richness in natural resources. According to journalists who have visited Ituri, disappearances, arbitrary killings, and other severe human rights abuses were all common in Ituri at the time.
Morland told CPJ that he had investigated Kisembo’s disappearance and was unable to locate any independent witnesses. UPC leader Thomas Lubanga told AFP that Kisembo was killed by militia from a rival ethnic militia, but was unable to substantiate the allegation, according to Morland.
On the evening before his disappearance, Kisembo was threatened by men outside houses occupied by the UPC, Morland said. At the time, he was with a group of international journalists watching the departure from Bunia of the last UPC gunmen, in line with an ultimatum issued by the peacekeeping force.
Kinshasa-based press freedom group Journaliste en Danger (JED) told CPJ that Kisembo was believed to have been assassinated by his kidnappers.
Reda Helal, Al-Ahram, August 11, 2003
Helal, an editor with Egypt’s semiofficial daily Al-Ahram, has been missing since August 11, 2003. Helal, considered controversial by some because of his outspoken support for the U.S.-led war in Iraq, was last seen entering his home in the capital, Cairo, on the afternoon he disappeared. Local journalists say there is little evidence pointing to who kidnapped him, or if he was even kidnapped. CPJ continues to investigate the case.
Fred Nerac, ITV News, March 22, 2003, Iman Anas
On March 22, veteran ITV News correspondent Terry Lloyd, cameraman Nerac, and translator Hussein Othman came under fire while driving to the southern Iraqi city of Basra. The journalists were not embedded with military forces.
The three men, along with cameraman Daniel Demoustier, were traveling in two marked press vehicles in the town of Iman Anas, near Al-Zubayr, when they came under fire, ITN reported. According to Demoustier, the car he and Lloyd had been driving had been pursued by Iraqi troops who may have been attempting to surrender to the journalists. Demoustier reported that the incoming fire to their vehicles likely came from U.S. or British forces in the area.
Demoustier, who was injured when the car he was driving crashed into a ditch and caught fire, managed to escape. He said he did not see what happened to Lloyd, who was seated next to him, or to the other crew members. Lloyd’s body was recovered in a hospital in Basra days later.
An investigative article published in the Wall Street Journal in May indicated that Lloyd’s SUV and another vehicle belonging to his colleagues came under fire from U.S. Marines. The article cited accounts from U.S. troops who recalled opening fire on cars marked “TV.” Soldiers also said they believed that Iraqi suicide bombers were using the cars to attack U.S. troops.
The Journal article cited a report from a British security firm commissioned by ITN to investigate the incident saying that Lloyd’s car was hit by both coalition and Iraqi fire; the latter most likely came from behind the car, possibly after the vehicle had crashed.
The report concluded that “[t]he Iraqis no doubt mounted an attack using the ITN crew as cover, or perhaps stumbled into the U.S. forces whilst attempting to detain the ITN crew.” The report also speculated that Nerac and Othman, who were last seen by Demoustier in another car being stopped by Iraqi forces – might have been pulled out of their car before it came under fire from coalition forces, and then Iraqi forces used the SUV to attack the coalition forces.
In April, Nerac’s wife approached U.S. secretary of state Colin Powell at a NATO press conference, and he promised to do everything in his power to find out what had happened to the missing men. In late May, Centcom said that it was investigating the incident, while the British Ministry of Defense promised to open an inquiry. Neither had made public any results as of October.
In September, London’s The Daily Mirror newspaper reported the testimony of an Iraqi man named Hamid Aglan who had allegedly tried to rescue the wounded Lloyd in a civilian minibus. Aglan told the newspaper that he had picked up a lightly wounded Lloyd, who had suffered only a shoulder injury, and attempted to take him to hospital in Basra when the minibus came under fire from a U.S. helicopter, killing Lloyd. The paper reported that the bus was also carrying wounded Iraqi soldiers.
An ITN spokesperson told CPJ that a number of elements of Aglan’s story are not consistent with ITN’s own investigation. She said an autopsy revealed that Lloyd had suffered two serious wounds that likely resulted from Iraqi and U.S. fire. She said that after he was wounded, an Iraqi civilian in a minibus had picked up Lloyd and tried to take him to a hospital in Basra. The minibus later came under U.S. attack. “It was a gunshot to the bus and [Terry] was probably in the bus,” she said. ITN investigators believe that either wound that Lloyd sustained would have been fatal.
According to ITV, when the journalists disappeared, Nerac was wearing three press cards – one American and two Kuwaiti – containing his name and photo. He had on a blue Gortex jacket, khaki trousers, thick Gortex shoes, and a silver watch. He has dark brown hair and gold-colored, round-rimmed glasses. Nerac has a fairly recent scar (about 2 inches [4 to 5 centimeters] long) on one side of his buttocks.
Othman was also wearing three press cards – one American and two Kuwaiti – containing his name and photo, said ITV. He was dressed in dark-colored, casual clothes. Othman is 5 feet 6 inches (1.70 meters) tall, with a medium build and short, thinning, dark hair.
Ali Astamirov, Agence France-Presse, July 4, 2003, Ingushetia, Russia
Astamirov, a 34-year-old correspondent for Agence France-Presse (AFP) news agency, was abducted on July 4 by unknown armed assailants in the southern Russian republic of Ingushetia.
Astamirov, who is married and has two children, previously worked for Chechnya’s Grozny Television. He was based in Ingushetia’s capital, Nazran, and had worked for AFP for more than a year. He reported on politically sensitive issues, primarily the conflict in Chechnya and the plight of Chechen refuges in neighboring Ingushetia.
The journalist was kidnapped while he and two colleagues, humanitarian worker Ruslan Musayev and Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty (RFE/RL) stringer Aslambek Dadayev, were driving through Nazran and stopped for gas.
A white vehicle blocked the car, and three armed men in camouflage attire – two of whom were wearing masks – seized the journalists’ cell phones, pulled Astamirov out of the car, and drove off in the direction of Chechnya.
Russian law enforcement authorities launched a criminal investigation into the incident but have not reported any progress.
Astamirov’s fate remains unknown, and the abductors have not contacted the journalist’s family or AFP with demands.
According to AFP, Astamirov had received telephone threats in the months prior to his abduction and had moved to a different house because he feared for his safety. On July 24, AFP reported that a reliable source in Chechnya told the news agency that the journalist was still alive and that he was being held in Chechnya. The source provided no further details.
Oleksandr Panych, Donetskiye Novosti, November 2002, Donetsk
Panych, a 36-year-old journalist and manager for the daily Donetskiye Novosti, disappeared in late November 2002 from the southeastern city of Donetsk and has not been heard from since. Donetskiye Novosti editor-in-chief Ryma Fil said that Panych had written articles about drugs and business issues, The Associated Press reported.
Panych disappeared several days after he sold his apartment for US$14,000. Soon after, investigators found bloodstains on the apartment’s carpet. Prosecutors believe he may have been robbed but have not ruled out the possibility that his disappearance is related to his journalism.
DEMOCRATIC REPUBLIC OF CONGO: 1
Belmonde Magloire Missinhoun, Le Point Congo, October 3, 1998, Kinshasa
Missinhoun, a citizen of Benin and owner of the independent financial newspaper La Pointe Congo, has not been seen since he was arrested after a traffic accident with a military vehicle in the capital, Kinshasa. Police investigations into the journalist’s disappearance have yielded no results.
Missinhoun had lived in Kinshasa for approximately 30 years. La Pointe Congo has not published since the regime of dictator Mobutu Sese Seko fell in 1997. It is feared that the journalist, who had close ties to the Mobutu government, was killed.
In March 2003, Congolese sources told CPJ that no one has received any information about Missinhoun since his disappearance. Local sources said they saw the journalist’s jeep re-painted in army colors after his arrest, and that they suspect he was killed.
Emmanuel Munyemanzi, Rwandan National Television, May 2, 1998, Kigali
Munyemanzi, head of production services at Rwandan National Television, disappeared on his way home from work in the capital, Kigali. Two months before his disappearance, the director of the Rwanda Information Office (Orinfor) accused the journalist of sabotage because of a technical problem that had occurred during the taping of a political debate. Munyemanzi was then suspended from his job and transferred to Orinfor’s Studies and Programs Bureau.
In March 2003, one source told CPJ that the journalist’s body was recovered shortly after he disappeared. CPJ was unable to confirm this report.
SERBIA AND MONTENEGRO: 1
Djuro Slavuj, Radio Pristina, August 21, 1998, Orahovac
Slavuj, a reporter at the state-run Radio Pristina, and Ranko Perenic, his driver, disappeared while on assignment in Kosovo. They were last seen in the town of Orahovac, where they had left by car to travel to Malisevo to report on strife in the area. Milivoje Mihajlovic, Slavuj’s editor, as well as Serbian officials and nongovernmental organizations, believe that fighters of the Kosovo Liberation Army captured the two. They were the first ethnic Serbs working for the media reported missing during the Kosovo conflict of 1999.
Vitaly Shevchenko, Lita-M, Chechnya, August 11, 1996, Grozny
Andrei Bazvluk, Lita-M, Chechnya, August 11, 1996, Grozny
Yelena Petrova, Lita-M, Chechnya, August 11, 1996, Grozny
Shevchenko and Bazvluk, journalists from Lita-M, a small television company in Kharkhiv, Ukraine, were reported missing by their colleagues in early September 1996. Fellow correspondents last saw the pair on August 11 in Grozny, the capital of Chechnya, during heavy fighting between Russian federal troops and Chechen fighters who had seized control of the city on August 6. Shevchenko and Bazvluk had reportedly traveled from their native Ukraine to Chechnya to cover the conflict. A third journalist, Yelena Petrova, a senior executive of Lita-M, was also believed to be missing. She did not contact her studio after mid-August, according to a colleague.
A representative of the Kharkiv Committee for Human Rights Protection told CPJ in March 2003 that the Lita-M television company no longer exists, and that the three are still missing. He also said that Shevchenko and Bazvluk were members of the ultranationalist Ukrainian Nationalist Assembly-Ukrainian National Self-Defense party. Other sources reported that the three were representatives of civic organizations and were involved in humanitarian work, making it unclear whether they were in Chechnya working as journalists.
Maksim Shabalin, Nevskoye Vremya, February 1995, Chechnya
Feliks Titov, Nevskoye Vremya, February 1995, Chechnya
Shabalin, assistant political editor of the St. Petersburg daily Nevskoye Vremya, and Titov, a photographer for the paper, were reported missing in Chechnya. They left Nazran on February 27, 1995, for their fifth trip to the breakaway republic since fighting there began in 1992.
According Nevskoye Vremya staff, the journalists were due back on March 4 but have not been heard from since and are presumed dead. Shabalin and Titov may not have had official accreditation from Russian authorities to enter Chechnya.
Colleagues at Nevskoye Vremya heard in September 1995 that the bodies of two journalists had been found in February 1995 in the Achoi Region of the republic. However, there were no documents or photographs confirming the bodies’ identities. On June 16, 1995, Nevskoye Vremya correspondent Sergei Ivanov traveled to Chechnya to look for Shabalin and Titov, but he never returned and has not been heard from since.
Alla Manilova, editor-in-chief of Nevskoye Vremya, told CPJ in March 2003 that Shabalin, Titov, and Ivanov are still missing, and that she heard rumors in the mid-1990s that Chechen rebels had killed Shabalin and Titov.
Sergei Ivanov, Nevskoye Vremya, June 1995, Chechnya
Ivanov, a correspondent for the St. Petersburg daily Nevskoye Vremya, was last seen by his colleagues on June 16, 1995, when he left for Chechnya to look for Nevskoye Vremya journalists Maksim Shabalin and Feliks Titov, who had disappeared in February. By the end of 1995, Ivanov’s colleagues had not heard from him, and they feared he was killed.
Alla Manilova, the editor-in-chief of Nevskoye Vremya, told CPJ in March 2003 that Shabalin, Titov, and Ivanov are still missing and that she heard rumors in the mid-1990s that Chechen rebels had killed Shabalin and Titov. She said that when Ivanov went to Chechnya to look for his colleages, the search team initially agreed not to split up, but Ivanov decided to go into the mountains on his own and was never heard from again.
Andrew Shumack, free-lancer, July 1995, Chechnya
Shumack, an American free-lance journalist, was last seen on July 28, 1995, when he left the Chechen capital of Grozny for the surrounding mountainous area. The St. Petersburg Press, an English-language newspaper, had provided Shumack with a letter of introduction on July 20 to help him obtain press credentials. In return, Shumack was to provide them with photographs and stories for three months. He is presumed dead because no one from the newspaper has heard from him since, and U.S. Embassy officials have not been able to locate him, despite repeated trips to the region.
Manasse Mugabo, United Nations Assistance Mission in Rwanda Radio, August 19, 1995, Rwanda
Mugabo, director of the UNAMIR radio service, left Rwanda’s capital, Kigali, to go on vacation to Uganda and has not been heard from since. CPJ has been unable to find information regarding the journalist’s whereabouts.
Mohamed Hassaine, Alger Républicain, March 1, 1994, Algiers
Hassaine, a reporter with the daily Alger Républicain, was kidnapped by unknown assailants. CPJ originally believed that Hassaine had been murdered based on his colleagues’ reports of discovering Hassaine’s decapitated body. But during interviews in the capital, Algiers, in October 1998, CPJ learned that Hassaine’s body was in fact never found, and that there has been no evidence confirming his death.
Kazem Akhavan, IRNA, July 4, 1982, Byblos
Akhavan, a photographer for Iran’s official news agency IRNA, and two officials from the Iranian Embassy in the capital, Beirut, were believed to have been kidnapped by Phalangist militiamen at a checkpoint near the northern city of Byblos and executed shortly after their abduction.
However, a March 18, 1998, story in the Israeli newspaper Ha’aretz raised suspicion that Israel may be holding the journalist. The story, written by Israeli journalist Josef al-Ghazi and based on information provided by the Israeli prison service, reported that three Iranian nationals were imprisoned in Israel at the time.
CPJ wrote to Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on April 15, 1998 requesting the names of the imprisoned Iranians but received no response.